Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas

We at Blitterwolf would like to wish


Amigans, MorphOS user & AROS users

a Very Merry Christmas

and a

Very Happy New Year

Everybody enjoy the season

and all it has to offer.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

The OS4 Pre-release Preview Part 3: The Final Countdown

Having a browse
Lets see what new things we can find on the new Workbench. Bringing up the Workbench volume we see all the usual familiar faces of drawers. Internet has been with us for a while, what’s changed? Well, lots. First Internet has not, unlike previous versions, got any browsers or email clients inside. What’s here is some other new icons not seen before, all related to each other. And to the new OS4 TCP/IP stack, Roadshow. Here we can create a new network connection, edit another or put one on-line. I have made both a dial-up connection and a LAN network over Ethernet, and once you know your way around the new system are simple to set up. Copying a PPP network from a Miami or Genesis setup requires more work, as does setting up an IP-filter or IP-NAT type Internet sharing, currently by mostly editing text files. The setup uses “Connections” to name your setups, and “Interfaces” which contain information on the conduit or hardware they use. Interfaces are added during boot, to facilitate the automatic setup of LAN networks, other Connections brought up manually. For general Internet use I’ve had no problems, and even those nasty PCI WinModems are supported. Modem types supported are Generic, Lucent, Sierra and assorted Rockwell chipsets. Including K56Flex, V.90, V.92 and X.2 protocols. Once online there is even a window showing the connection stats and a graph for incoming and outgoing data streams.
IBrowse 2.3
For Internet browsing IBrowse 2.3 is included, where you can install anywhere, but it is only the 68k demo version. And the default email client, AmigaMail, is missing. Not good signs, though everybody is using either YAM or SimpleMail, Voyager or AWeb. YAM currently is still only stable at 2.4pl 68k, the new PPC is still in beta. And after using it, it shows. SimpleMail has PPC, as does new AWeb APL versions. Voyager remains like IBrowse at 68k, though sometimes does crash. On the whole, there are Internet support programs, which as usual are mostly third party utilities. And it could be like this for a while yet. As with most Amiga Internet programs, you probably picked up that the apps I have mentioned require MUI. So where does this come from and have they actually used MUI for the user interface finally? Not quite, MUI is included and it’s a native PPC version, however it’s there only to support MUI apps such as the included IBrowse and likewise, isn’t a registered version. But, we all know MUI is fairly useable as it is.

Preferential treatment
As well as items being shifted around in prefs we also have a few newbies to play with. AHI is there for the new sound system support, being able to set mixing on inputs and outputs, as it is full duplex capable. And there is even a 7.1 multichannel mode, just when you thought it would be good enough for Amiga to even have 5.1. The proposed AmigaInput is there, controlling arrangement of input devices as in the keyboard, joystick and mouse. ASL controls the position, size and other relevant things for the file, font and screenmode requesters. Why this isn’t called Requesters for instance I don’t know, as ASL is an acronym for Amiga Standard Library, the programmers API for invoking such a requester, which is not something a user needs to contend with. DOS is a new one allowing us to set stack and buffer sizes, requester time outs and also activating a new feature. Where a window will pop up if there is an unknown assign, asking if we want to assign or mount. Font is similar except now supports anti-aliased fonts and caching as well. We also have some new fonts to play with, as well as the old bitmap classics. GUI is a big one, with too much to mention. As it suggests, we can select the pen colour arrangements here, how the window border and gadgets look. How the new menu system operates, with now menus appearing under the mouse pointer, and if you like sticking on screen. We finally have the option to centre those system requesters, which I feel should have been there in 3.5 Now we see some progress. IPrefs has also been merged with GUI, along with Reaction. Funny as it seems currently, screen dragging is still in the GUI, even if we can’t do it. What we can do however is now drag windows off screen just like, ahem, Windows. We can also drag windows around solid ala OpaqueMove and in an interesting move, we can now re-size windows with the contents scaling in realtime. Quite a set in there. There is Internet, another Internet setup program, this manages the interfaces, sets up routes and gateways, hosts, DNS, Servers and Services. Very similar to the Miami and Genesis GUI’s. Next up is PopupMenu, although menus are already configured there is another prefs editor for pop menus, allowing to set font styles border thickness and spacing. There is a Presets drawer, containing complete Workbench GUI setups, known as themes. You can go a predefined resolution, or select from here separate Patterns, Pointers and Sounds. There are a few bells and whistles. Screens is another new editor, affecting what happens to newly opened screens, the closest to a mode promoter. You make a list of screen names, and what screenmode, font, GUI settings and type of palette to apply. Time looks familiar, still looking like a calendar and good as one, though new tabs has appeared, one for setting local time and the other for retrieving it off a remote server. USB will be of interest, the editor simple, specifying attachments and log reports. The rest of the preference editors I haven’t mentioned will be pretty much unchanged, if not so. But I found Serial to be missing. Pertaining to the new graphic system is Picasso96Mode, a very technical utility for setting up RTG mode parameters. Not for the light hearted, even I am afraid of it.

Device Development
Yes there has been some in the Devs department. To begin with included datatypes as standard are Amiga 8SVX, ILBM, FTXT and AmigaGuide. Plus AIFF, BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG and TIFF.

DOSDrivers contains some features spoke about. We have icons here supporting on-the-fly writing to not only CDRW’s but DVDRW’s as well, with support for both DVD-R and DVD+R formats. Originally featured just for Mt. Rainier there is also support for drives without this, which would be using the old packet writing method, supposed to be slower than the mountain variety. Currently only SmartFileSystem is supported for writing, so this is only useful between OS4 machines for the time being, and making personal backups. With my own use I have found some problems with it. Although I can successfully format and prepare a CDRW for use, and I can copy anything to it again and again with it writing away, once I have done this the CD remains locked in the drive. I cannot eject it, even bringing up the FormatCDRW utility for preparing does no use, which includes a “Stop formatting” gadget I pressed in case that was needed. But no, that just seemed to keep going on even without writing and never came back, how much time did it need? I had to hard reset the machine in order to reset the CD drive, perhaps it was a driver situation with my drive, so this feature does need work. It can also be confusing having to work with another DOS device to write access it. Another feature touted for CD’s was access to CD tracks as files, and this appears too, literally actually. If you pop in an audio CD, with or without data, a volume will appear and all the tracks are accessible as AIFF files. On data CD’s this appears in the root directory, and in use appears to work well. What seems to be missing, apart from CacheCDFS, being replaced by a CDFileSystem is multi-session or multi-volume support. Just like Windows, only one session will show up, and will be the only one accessible. This need (of mine) should be added in the future. What does work fully is RAD, as this is included too. Even the ability to recover is still retained, and remount the device at boot, not only a soft but a hard reset still will key RAD survive reset. And you can also set it to boot as well, just as we used too. Since RAD used to use chip RAM and this is now virtually unlimited, you set RAD to be whatever size you like, and even boot off it if have the wish too. That’s good stuff. The ZIP icons are still there, as well as some usual system icons, some now are mounted when booting except being internal because of different hardware configurations being taken into consideration. We also have AUDIO we can copy to for sounds. And a new one TEXTCLIP, for storing, you guessed, it text clips. What is interesting is that ENV is now an internal mounted volume, similar to HappyENV and other utils that provided an ENV volume instead of a directory.

A heap of new KeyMaps appears in this release, in a new format too. Dozens of language and variants are supported through the keyboard, as are 16-bit UNICODE character sets. These files are mainly to convert original Amiga RAWKEY codes into an ASCII representation, so those codes are still provided for programs, automatically first converted from the input type be that a PS/2, USB or even Amiga keyboard. Two Monitor variants are supported, Radeon and Voodoo. I haven’t tested the Voodoo driver, but Radeon worked straight off the bat with my 9200SE. Previously a bit under supported under Linux, but well supported under AmigaOS, and I had much less trouble getting my card to work. Other card features such as TV out modes are yet to be supported in OS4.

A new one again related to Roadshow is NetInterfaces. These are automatically added for access at boot, and if you have a LAN set up, will appear here. Of course it is duplicated in Storage if you want to disable it at boot.

Finally, Printers, hasn’t changed much. In fact the 3.9 system is used presently, until they update it. Printing isn’t yet perfect, printing a standard text dump works fine, but anything graphical doesn’t in my own personal experience. This means that programs that just print ASCII will be fine, but others such as Wordworth, paint programs and web browsers will have problems. Others have had better luck, and even TurboPrint will function.

It’s hydromatic, Systematic
Of major importance here in the new OS is the GrimReaper. Lying in System to be used just by the...system, of course. The Grim Reaper replaces the old Software Alert and Guru Meditation requesters, and is perhaps the only program that might possibly surpass all previous attempts by third parties to improve the information and usefulness of the Amiga crash requester. The current feature set is big now, allowing you to play around in it with the new options available. The first window presented upon a crash is still a bit technical, though they have managed to include a name, and the old 68k alert number is till used along with some jargon related to what happened on the PPC side of things. I hope it contains more detailed info in the future, as we don’t all have a PowerPC or a RKM by our side to decode what those codes mean. At least I don’t anyway. Options include killing the task, rebooting, continuing, attempting to attach it to the PPC GNU debugger GDB, ignoring errors and giving more info. By going more into it will bring up more pages of information, all tabbed on top. General lists the state of all the PowerPC general and status registers including 68k emulated registers, to the right is listed more information about the crash including what OS module and function it happened in if possible. Crash Log controls the log level output, and if to send it out over serial. Stack Trace will follow through backwards what was happening in the OS to hunt the crash down, and also to generate the trace. Memory Dump will show a hex dump of memory integral to the crash region. Disassembly is interesting, showing the actual instruction that caused the crash, in PPC code. In future this will also be able to disassemble the 68k parts if the code was running in the emulator. Finally System Information will detail the machine’s hardware, what devices and libraries are active in the AmigaOS system and running tasks.

TypeManager looks to be a replacement somewhat for Intellifont, or a successor to anyway. This allows you to install external fonts you have into the system, and a fair amount are supported, so the new font engine is a fairly modern piece of software engineering. Supporting multiple Types such OpenType, TrueType, PostScript, PFR, BDF, PCF and Windows fonts, if any of those letters mean anything to you, less to me. The beauty of this is that even old 68k applications such as Wordworth are able to utilise these fonts as they still use the usual system font routines for opening and selecting these fonts.

The Shell has had a slight update, more inside than out, it seems. The new shell window now has tab completion, similar to the Linux bash, but decides on it’s own what do when a multiple choice exists and gives you no option of anything to select. Just like with OS3.9, what was done with the shell just annoyed me, so I do what I do with every update to AmigaOS. And that is to install KingCON straight away, tried, tested and true to form. Even having the same version of KingCON with no progress always seems far ahead and any official OS shell updates. Perhaps they should just give up what they are trying to do and just include all the functionality of KingCON, that way they could KISS all the problems good bye. By Keeping It Simple Stupid.

New to the System is USB support. In here we have icons for starting and stopping the USB stack. And it won’t start without it. Future OS versions are meant to support USB at boot, so this is obviously an early version. Currently, USB devices such as keyboards, mice, storage and card readers are known to work.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Release of issues 1 to 13

Howdy All,

Damien, Phil and myself have managed to track down issues 1 to 13 of the Monthly Pages which I had thought to be long since lost.

I am in the process of copying and editing the magazines to be republished here with some new artwork to accompany the articles.

The editing mainly consist of taking out links to sites and section such as: Previously on Monthly Pages...

All the snippets in the documents relating to possible wallpaper artwork have also been taken out and a new tab will be created on the blog for wallpapers, that said if anyone would like to submit any wallpapers for Amiga use then please let me know.

I am hoping to have the re-release of issue 1 by the weekend.

Please keep in mind that issue 1 relates to hardware and software news articles from 2009.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Amiga Laptop E.M.M.A. Part 3

Installing AmigaoS4.1

I don't really need to cover much about this as it has been documented many times under emulation and on native hardware so I will just comment on my experience setting up and the overall experience.

I will say I had a little problem when installing as the default window when installing was larger than my 14" Windows laptop resolution could cope with, I managed to get round this by installing Amiga Forever and then Installing AmigaOS4.1 on a laptop with a larger screen resolution.

Once OS4.1 was installed on my 15.6" laptop I could set the Workbench screenmode to one which would fit the 14" laptop which is 1366 x 768. Once the screenmode setting and the virtual HD and config file are saved they can then be copied to the new laptop and then when Amiga Forever is run and this config file and virtual HD are loaded then E.M.M.A. is up and running.

I am now able to run E.M.M.A. at virtually full screen, I have to take into account the taskbar of a Windows machine and also the titlebar on the Amiga Forever window and I get to run it at 1366 x 720 which is pretty good going.

I have a few issues that need to be addressed but as this is more time spent using Amiga Forever than I have ever done before I'm sure I'll get these sorted. There are also issues with the hardware choice but it's too late for that, for a start a 1.6ghz laptop is slow but usable, faster would be better.

I need to look into adding the PCs drives or directories, I know this is possible but it will take some investigation..

If there is one thing I have learnt from this process is that Amiga Forever is a very powerful piece of software that enables non Amiga PPC owning people to be able to get the experience without forking out for new hardware.

I can honestly say that without Amiga Forever I would not have been able to set up E.M.M.A.


To get E.M.M.A. running it has cost me approx. £250.00, that includes the hardware, Amiga Forever and AmigaOS4.1 Classic, If I had spent another £100.00 on the laptop, this would have given me a 2.48ghz processor and therefore a smoother experience that is still only £350.00 which to me seems a very reasonable price to pay for an Amiga laptop.

Here's a simple question, would you buy E.M.M.A. for £350.00 if sold as a complete package?

I have enjoyed getting it to the stage I'm at and will continue to refine E.M.M.A. possibly try on a faster processor, use the laptops HD, possible larger screen modes and it would be nice to be able to boot straight into OS4.1 and not need to deal with Windows.

The End, or is it...

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Amiga Laptop E.M.M.A. Part 2

Amiga Forever

When people think of emulation they think annoying, time consuming, messing around with many configurations and downright frustration, none of this will be seen here thanks to Amiga Forever as this is the ideal software when it comes to emulation for Amigas on PCs.

It was probably going back to 2009 when I first got introduced to Amiga Forever and was hooked straight away, I have always had an keen interest in emulation of many systems from getting a small handheld Android machine and having it run C64 emulation all the way up to Amigas on PCs.

So onwards it is, I am using the latest incarnation which is Amiga Forever 2016 version, the installation is flawless and doesn't take too long. Once installed and run you are presented with the window shown below

Amiga Forever 2016 Player Window

In the systems tab shown above you will see listed all the Amiga models all the way from 1985 and the Amiga 1000 up to more modern versions from 2002 with Workbench 3.x. Options also include variants such as AmigaSYS, AmiKit and AROS.

For my purposes I will need a version of the Amiga 4000 so I right clicked on Amiga 4000 and I copied and renamed to AmigaOS 4.1fe.

At this point I remembered that my copy of AmigaOS4.1 for Classics would need to be registered on the Hyperion website, thankfully to take out more complication a downloadable version of the disk ISO is available here.

From this point on to carry on the configuration of Amiga Forever all I needed was the AmigaOS4.1 Emulation book, fully illustrated with brilliant step by step instructions.

So now I have a nice 14" laptop with a copy of Amiga Forever 2016 installed, I wonder what to do next...

To be continued...

Monday, 7 November 2016

Amiga Laptop E.M.M.A.

E.M.M.A. (Emulated Machine, My Amiga) Part 1

I had initially thought of putting my Sam440ep board into a laptop case and having a native Amiga laptop, I posted on on the 10th October 2016 looking for advice on weather anyone thought it possible.

It is now nearly one month on and I have decided that the idea was beyond my capabilities if at all possible.

I already had in my possession a copy of AmigaOS4.1fe Classic and a copy of Amiga Forever 2016 and also recently purchased the book AmigaOS4.1 Emulation (Complete Guide Not Just For Beginners) so all I needed was a laptop.

AmigaOS4.1fe Classic

Amiga Forever

AmigaOS 4.1 Emulation

Choosing the laptop was a bit time consuming, I needed one with a CD drive, don't want to mess with SD cards, cheap as my intention was to run it solely as an Amiga so didn't want to fork out a lot of money on a laptop with a 17 inch screen, 8gb of memory and 2tb hard drive. I found a nice 14 inch model with 4gb and 500mb hard drive and less than £250.00.

Preparing the Laptop

I was slightly mistaken that getting home with the laptop and then installing Amiga Forever, no that would be way to easy. I got home at 2pm yesterday got it charged and switched it on, it proceeded to install a couple of updates to Windows 10, when I say a couple I mean a couple of dozen as at 10:30pm it is just finishing the last update giving me just enough time to install Amiga Forever.

Now lets get Amiga Forever configured.

To be continued...

Thursday, 3 November 2016

The OS4 Pre-release Preview Part 2

A New Kind of Install
It is time to actually set up and write something to disk. So here we are presented with the HDToolbox replacement, Media Toolbox. Just like when you had a fresh new disk on a conventional Amiga that needed the "Install" option in HDToolbox here we must do the same. At this point it gets a little complicated, as we must install some special AmigaOne boot code, namely the Second Level Bootloader. This wouldn't be too bad, except you must find and select the right file, and picking the right version can be a guessing game. As it depends if you have no need or do have a need to support booting from Linux or the Amiga SmartFileSystem. Now we can partition the harddisk how we like, but our boot partition must be set up in the new DOS7 format. The main new features of this filesystem is internal support for filenames up to 107 characters and device level 64-bit access for modern disk sizes. When setting this up for some reason it isn't set to default, so you must select the new system as well as modify a few other fields. After this you can add some more partitions to you're liking, and when you're done save to disk, after which because of all the disk initialisation we must perform a reboot.

Here I noticed something that can be a major annoyance when needing to boot off the OS4 CD again, that although you told it the first time what the input preferences were these are not saved anywhere and it goes through the whole process of asking you again. Even with a fully installed OS4 the CD still doesn't check what is selected on disk or give the option of reading it. After getting past this again we must now format the new partitions, if you have a few you have set up you know it can be a pain to select all the drives and format them. And unfortunately this must be done as well, including making sure it knows you want to use the new filesystem, despite already telling it in Media Toolbox. Although you only need to do a quick format, having the installer or Media Toolbox do this for you automatically would make things a bit easier, and a bit more in line with other OS' such as MacOSX where it formats as part of the partition process.  After telling the installer we don't need to install the harddisk into the system we can now get onto the big one, actually installing AmigaOS4.

We select what volume we want on, click "Proceed" and away it goes. The most simple part of the installation stage yet. After this is done we then specify the best screenmode our monitor can handle and then our soundcard driver is installed as well, mostly standard SoundBlaster types supported. At this point the installation of AmigaOS4 is complete and our AmigaOne is now ready to be used an as Amiga system. We can now remove the OS4 CD and reset the machine into a stand alone AmigaOS4 Workbench.

Running Solo
Well here we are, we have arrived at the main part of my preview, actually reviewing AmigaOS4 stand alone as it sits on the machine. Before I continue I must say since the first articles inception OS4 has been through two updates. The first was a major update, being a 30MB ISO image. The second not so huge a download, being just a 2MB LHA file, but both bringing more major features to the OS which are a welcome edition. This is also what you get if you buy one of the latest A1 models, the latest release on a nicely factory printed compact disc. Rather than outline what features each upgrade brought to the system, I decided to review everything as a whole, given that what I have is the latest release and the current snapshot of the latest version.

Running OS4 solo, from power on, first will come the usual U-Boot firmware messages. Including support for 48-bit access devices, being that AmigaOS already supports 64-bit access, and FFS on a 512 byte blocksize can support a maximum partition size of 2 Terrabytes (2048 Gigabytes!), we are already ahead of them. U-Boot will eventually find the right drive to boot off and run the FLB. One that starts  it will spin off the SLB and up comes a simple text menu asking if you want the standard or debug OS4 kernel running. You can configure this to ask or skip the selections including adding other OS' such as Linux which takes some setting up to configure. After the chosen OS4 kernel is selected, a text progression display bar makes its way across the screen as the OS4 Kickstart files are loaded. Even though Kickstart isn't kept in ROM in the usual sense, it is kept in special modules that are loaded with each cold reboot, of which the layout is also configurable. Once loaded, the "Amiga" is ready, and begins booting off harddisk. The screen is black, a few little moments pass by and click! The monitor syncs and up comes the OS4 Workbench screen.

First Contact
Being of the nature of this review, the first thing to compare this to is OS3.9, so I will try to do that here, although it's been a while since the last version of AmigaOS came out, 2000 I believe. Comparing differences, we could see the screen titlebar has changed a little, being of a grey background with a boing ball situated in the left corner, a depth gadget on the right and the usual graphics and other mem listed. However, now they show the same amount. On my review system, which has 256MB internal memory, the system shows about 8MB less that 64MB free in the system. This doesn't mean that suddenly the PowerPC AmigaOS is a memory hog! It reveals part of the new memory substructure within. In line with bringing more up to date features to AmigaOS, Exec now virtualises the memory, and makes use of the MMU built into the PowerPC. Currently, by having virtual memory, this doesn't mean that AmigaOS is a harddisk thrasher like all other modern OS'. It just means that all memory in AmigaOS is considered virtual in the respect that Exec maps it in a particular fashion, for instance the AmigaOne having no real custom chips means no actual chip ram, so this is "emulated" by just taking it out of the usual memory pool. Exec also separates the 68k emulated code from the native code, and these sit in different parts of memory. Rather than having to check each code address to see what code it contains (68K or PPC) it tags the memory and just jumps to the code there arbitrary, using the MMU to sort it out itself. In future the MMU will be used for support of standard page-based virtual memory disk access, as well as to be used for dynamically extending core task memory such as stacks and so forth. And for applications that support it, being able to access a whole file on disk as if it was completely stored in memory and processing it as such. So that potential memory shortage is just a scare at first, it doesn't show the real picture. Of which in the backdrop is a new AmigaOS4 picture, the usual array of drives on our left and the AmiDock sitting on the bottom of the bay, in its usual spot.

From the onset it doesn't look like AmiDock has changed, also having five icons sitting on the bottom right of the screen like in OS3.9. The differences lie beneath the surface, having to be a bit more configurable than its predecessor. Of course having more options means more complication, and AmiDock is no exception. I found this to be a problem as it can be tedious setting things up by clicking this and selecting that, and although you can set up AmiDock in the GUI provided with it, I really feel it should be done directly on the interface itself. Making use of the new features such as multiple docks is hard to work out at first, as this requires you use a special subdock which you must add yourself, and also find in the Workbench directories. AmiDock also includes an ability to communicate with other Workbench loaded programs through an application library, though I haven't yet found OS4 programs that make this noticeable or even demonstrate it. Like OS3.9, AmiDock is run from WBStartup. Others would disagree, but I find this to be an unprofessional approach to a program that is touted as being part of Workbench. For instance, if you switch the background off to bring up the Workbench window, suddenly AmiDock disappears showing you how it is a separate entity to  Workbench. It doesn't stop there, for all the other commodities from OS3.9 to improve the Workbench are there as well, such as ASyncWB, DefIcons, RABInfo and the newer ContextMenus. Most people wouldn't have a problem with this setup, however I find that if they are meant to be creating a new PPC AmigaOS, surely certain things would be there internally as standard. Or does a Workbench that supports multi-threading, a standard GUI look and modern type menus but only with add on hacks (or commodities) okay by your standards? As you can work out, doesn't sound good now, but Hyperion intend to replace Workbench eventually.

Going through the menus nothing much as changed, About of course being updated with mention of Hyperion Entertainment and Amiga, Inc. And showing that I have Kickstart 51.19, Workbench 51.1. The Find item still would be the newest subitem, the Find application still looking the same, and acting it. Selecting an icon and then Find as if to look there still will bring up a selection of all drives, with no file gadgets added to make drive navigation easier, you still have to use the menus. And still click the Start gadget to begin, unable to simply press return like in a web browser, just to make us feel at home.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

The OS4 Pre-release Preview Part 1


It was only in the last few recent number of years that anything officially close to what could be called a Next Generation Amiga was released let alone what could have been just become another false announcement or failed attempt. It was said a long time ago that a transition from AmigaOS 68k to PowerPC would be a job that would take at least two years, and that was considered too long. Of course who ever said this didn’t realise that you must put in the on going hard work now in order for it to be an investment for the future. And so, AmigaOS never at this time made it. Of course, two years after that announcement nothing ever happened, so what was the point of stalling in the first place if two years later we we’re at the same place? None what so ever, indeed anyone who bought the Amiga company, in relation to the OS and hardware, were seen as a boy crying wolf. Comparatively, Hyperion were working on OS4 33 months before the first public beta release. Even H&P, who used to be big supporters for PPC, once said they would port it to PPC, they even had the first job to do OS4 at one stage. Oh yes, a number of new Amiga OS’s and machines were in development to be released, but none ever made it. Until now. It’s funny to think that after over ten years since the last original hardware and OS was manufactured that now something would happen, and by who? A third party.

And I think, despite it, it is the best thing to happen to the Amiga for a long time, it also couldn’t happen at the worst time. Why, strangely it would seem, do I say this? Because hardly anything worth of any value out of the Amiga is left. Even as little as five years ago, the hardware was seen as a commodity with it’s speed and ease at multimedia applications, especially in the video field. And the software was still seen to be an amazing multi-tasking OS that could still hold it’s own against the big boys. Now, the hardware is seen as a drag, limited in speed and colour, and applications. And the OS just a novelty of it’s time, too small and missing essentials, and tied to the hardware too much. As a demonstration of this, TV’s and video equipment are now accepting VGA inputs, and interlaced images are being replaced by progressive scan techniques and HD imaging. And it is easy enough to use Mac or Windows for video editing and sound engineering. Of course there is the third party Amiga developments that have emerged since then. Perhaps it started with the Draco, but it continued with the Pegasos. UAE and Amithlon stirred the scene, and then we have AROS, the closest project to being AmigaOS native on x86. Given that most Amiga owners who are still keen also own a PC, they find the old dream of a new Amiga machine irrelevant and just want to run AmigaOS on the PC sitting at home. If that wasn’t all, we have lost most of the big software companies, the classics. Responsible for both productivity as well as great games. So, why now? Better late than never? I guess it is just that some people got together and actually managed to do something for the Amiga after all, or what was left of it, and have another go at saving what was the original best for last. I guess for that I am grateful, even if it feels like we are hanging on by a thread.

A new beginning
Of course not only has the OS taken a while to emerge, the chosen hardware hasn’t had a smooth ride either. Announced first as a specification to run the AmigaDE, the AmigaOne board has gone through some revisions before the final versions made it. Originally based on the Predator, what was to be a PPC A1200 accelerator, was chosen to be the Eyetech incarnation of the AmigaOne hardware but expanded to be independent. A motherboard in it’s own right. Because the AmigaOS was still tied to the hardware somewhat, even in early developments, it was decided to retrofit the new board with an A1200 to enable this hardware to be used. Until such as a time that the OS could function on it’s own. Unfortunately the company producing the retrofitting hardware, a PCI to A1200 CPU slot card, couldn’t get the device to work as it should. And so Eyetech ended up wasting time on this project and set out to find another motherboard from a third party, not based on their own Predator. They found the Teron series from MAI, and licensed it for production. So then Hyperion got to work on a BIOS for the new hardware and worked on OS4 to be run on it.

2004: The year of the OS?
Between their own projects and with no solid funding Hyperion had the task of migrating AmigaOS 3.x to AmigasOS4 on PPC architecture. When Microsoft were working on Windows 95, they attempted to incorporate things into the OS to make it easier for games programmers, the reaction to that was, “What do Microsoft know about games?” In contrast to Hyperion, a games company I’m sure it was said, “What experience do they have to port an OS?” They had plenty, not only in porting games from different OS models, such as Win32 to Linux, or x86 to Mac PPC. But also a technical know how and training in OS structure and theory. So not only were the brothers at Hyperion qualified for the job, that games background would be sure to influence them into what I hope would be a fun OS.

And between when OS4 had it’s first announcement, the planning and organising, and finally the work up to now, in 2004 the public could finally get their hands on the new AmigaOS made for a new generation. This is it for the Amiga in 2004, this is the year of the OS.

First impressions
Being that this release is customised for the AmigaOne hardware this is one of the first things we must address. Since the board firmware must be updated before OS4 can be used. You can either burn an ISO image to a CD track, or if you have a high density floppy drive, copy a floppy image onto disk. You then boot either one and run the software within to update the U-Boot firmware code. Then their is a few U-Boot settings to sort out and make sure are set correctly and we are on our way to boot OS4.

Once that is sorted out we can boot off the CD, this can be automatic, manual selection or on the command line. It is here the bootloaders take control. U-Boot has a FLB, or First Level Bootloader, built into it specific to load AmigaOS4 off an Amiga RDB partitioned drive. An internal command, ‘boota’ handles this. Once this detects that a bootable drive has a RDB, it will load up and pass control over to the SLB, the Second Level Bootloader. This is then responsible for loading up the filesystem stored in the RDB and using that to access special kickstart and configuration files. Which it now loads and sets up, reporting it’s progress on screen. Since the Amiga kickstart is no longer in ROM, and the firmware is only used as a bootloader, the kickstart must now be loaded from disk. You could say it was comparable to the Amiga 100 WOM, or Write-Once-Memory where a special kickstart booter ROM loaded the original kickstart off a floppy and then booted up the system. Only this time, almost 20 years later, we can load a lot more data more quickly off harddisk. But, unfortunately the introduction screens even given the time difference are not even as pretty, being old fashioned boring text modes you’d expect on a PC. Some think of this point as trivial, but one of the original Amiga greats was being fully graphical, even the boot screens. Now, currently we have lost that too. Getting grips to loading BASIC off disk years ago compared to a microcomputer, to now loading kickstart off disk too was an evolution in stand-by. But, reverting back to text DOS-box look a like screens, that is just too far, it just isn’t on. I thought the whole point of this was trying not to turn the Amiga into a PC. And one last comment on the subject, which makes the matter worse, is that even PC BIOS screens look better than this. Catching up again? Once the kickstart has loaded it puts it all together in one piece in memory and once done, the new ExecSG (Second Generation) is executed and sets up the Amiga kernel like old times. It is here we can thankfully throw those text modes away, since from now on it is pure AmigaOS, and graphical the rest of the way, just like old times.

Just like it, once AmigaDOS is set up and ready to boot, it polls all the drives for one to boot off and mounts all the Amiga partitions it finds. Here there is one good new feature, CD drives are now automatically mounted. Hence being able to boot off the OS4 CD, which the system does now, and after some disk access we have the first introduction to AmigaOS4. A “Welcome” requester in the centre of the screen comes up. This is the first taste of OS4, from now on the installer is loaded so we can set up OS4 on our harddisk. Just as Windows95 installed itself under the new OS, and the way that the MacOSX installer runs in X, AmigaOS4 is also installed under OS4. From this first window others come where you specify your language, country and time zone. And then you configure your input devices. All these programs used are the standard preferences ones. From here the CD continues with it’s booting, until eventually it boots into a Workbench screen and the standard installer appears. Here you will notice that unlike it’s predecessor, OS3.9, the OS4 installer doesn’t open up on it’s own screen or put a colour gradient in the background with introductory pictures and boing sounds. Just a standard installer window, hmm, perhaps they forgot. The screen opened for installation is set to 800x600, 16 bit. Meaning even an old 14” VGA considered old hat should be able to handle it, or just get by. On the new WB you can also start playing around and checking things out on the CD, including the useful install guide, shown in IBrowse. Once you are ready to go it’s time to set up your harddisk.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

A BlitterWolf Retrospective

The OS4 Pre-release Preview

Coming up is a series of articles I wrote from late 2004 to early 2005 for Workbench magazine that was the printed magazine of an Amiga user group I attended. The club magazine ceased printing many years ago and was published as an online PDF for a short while after. The club is still running and I still attend.

It is written from a time when the new AmigaOne and AmigaOS4 had come into being and so gives a review of both. There was an earlybird special for those who pre-ordered an AmigaOne board early and this included an OS4 Developer Pre-release, that was sent out when it was ready. So although it was a review in its own right, I called it a preview, as it reviewed a pre-release version of the OS. It also compares the AmigaOne with the Amiga Classic it was slated to take the place of and outlines the positives and negatives of the new hardware.

I wanted to release this years ago to the greater Amiga public but to my knowledge never ended up doing so. So I am glad to be doing it now as part of the new BlitterWolf blog. Also, the final parts of the review have some special features, which I hope you will enjoy. As well as what would now be classified as retro OS4 pictures.

So, without further ado, here is a BlitterWolf Retrospective: The OS4 Pre-release Preview. :-D

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Overclocking the Macrosystems Draco

article from Dave's Amiga Hardware Page

The Draco is an Amiga compatible computer intended for high quality video production. It is well known for it's efficiency and reliability as well as the excellent software supplied with it (after all, it IS Amiga compatible!). The Draco was one of the first Amigas to have a 68060. Due to the fact that the 060 is only clocked at 50MHz, and that many of it's tasks are CPU intensive, there is a real need to get more speed out of it. I was recently given the opportunity to overclock one at a recent Amiga User's Group meeting, and viewed the task as a new challenge due to the fact it is quite different in design to a standard Amiga, and is one I am quite unfamiliar with. Please don't ask me any further questions about the total knowledge of it is on this page!

The Draco is housed in a large tower case (I understand there was a later version in a smaller case). It contains a backplane board with Zorro II slots and special Draco slots inline with each other. One of the slots is occupied by the CPU/SCSI/RAM board. A display card, (based on the Retina ZIII) and a video card, (based on the Vlab motion) are also supplied. The special Draco bus provides high speed interfacing between these cards.

The CPU board contains a number of oscillators and stand alone crystals. A 25MHz oscillator supplies a clock signal for the CPU (refer to pics 2 & 3 below). This 25MHz clock is doubled by circuitry in the board to provide the 50MHz clock required by the 68060. I assume a PLL (Phase Locked Loop) circuit is used to double the 25MHz to 50MHz. This of course, means that there will be a limitation imposed on how much overclocking can be achieved. The PLL circuit will cease functioning correctly long before the 060's limit of about 66MHz is reached.

A problem was revealed on initial inspection of the board. The 25MHz oscillator is actually a tiny surface mount type, which was physically incompatible with the standard type oscillators I have. Fortunately testing revealed that they were electronically compatible, so it was really only a problem of physical accommodation. The second problem was that the existing oscillator could not be removed with the tools I had with me. Presumably, like most surface mount components, it was glued to the board. To solve this I isolated the 25MHz oscillator by cutting the track leading from it's output pin. Of course, if you have the appropriate tools to allow removal of the surface mount oscillator, and you have the appropriate replacement oscillator in surface mount format, then it is simply a matter of removing the old one and soldering the new one in.

Draco with it's cover removed and the location of the CPU board

The relevant section of the CPU board and the oscillator

Note that a yellow dot has been added which corresponds with pin 1 on the oscillator. Although tiny, this oscillator has the same pinouts as the standard type oscillators and these have been labelled in the picture. Also note that pin 1 is not connected. Also shown is the track to be cut to isolate the old oscillator, and the point on the PLL IC (labelled "OUT") where the output of the new oscillator is to be connected.

Entire CPU board and the location of the enlarged view

Pictures 4 & 5 show the socket with flying leads soldered to the appropriate points on the PCB. To make up this socket, start with a high quality "machine pin" IC socket - in either 14 pin or 8 pin format, depending on what oscillator you are using. Remove all pins except those at the extreme corners of the socket (For a 14 pin socket as I used, only pins 1, 7, 8 and 14 should remain). Solder a short length of insulated wire to each of pins 7, 8 & 14. About 30mm should be plenty. Use black wire for pin 7, which is connected to the point labelled "GND" in pic 2. Use orange wire for pin 8, which is connected to the point labelled "OUT" on the PLL IC - be very careful not to short to the adjacent pins. Finally use red wire on pin 14 to connect to "+5V". Note that all pins are insulated with heatshrink tubing, including the unconnected pin 1, which is more clearly shown in the top left of pic 4.

The socket will allow you to experiment to find the best frequency oscillator to use. The PLL circuit in the Draco multiplies the oscillator frequency by 2, so for 50 MHz, a 25MHz oscillator was used. In my experiments, I found that a 32MHz oscillator would not work, but a 28.6MHz oscillator did work. This corresponds to a CPU frequency of 57.2MHz. I did not have any oscillators between those frequencies, so I was unable to try it at an intermediate frequency. Since then, the owner obtained a 30MHz oscillator and was able to get reliable operation from it, with the CPU at 60MHz. He also told me he had heard of another Draco user changing his oscillator to 33MHz, giving a 66MHz Draco. I was unable to duplicate this, so I assume some other modification was additionally made to allow this to work. Almost all 68060 chips I have seen will work reliably at 66 Mhz, so it is clear the PLL in the Draco is the limiting factor. Also note that the 060 did not get noticeably hotter, due to the modest amount of overclocking and the fact it is already fitted with a heatsink & fan

Insulation tape used to insulate the oscillator

It may be wise to stick the oscillator down with some double side tape to prevent it flopping around.

How to do it - step by step
  1. Using a good quality 14 pin IC socket, remove all pins except 1, 7, 8 & 14. (For an 8 pin socket remove all pins except 1,4,5 & 8)
  2. Solder a short length of black wire to pin 7 on the socket. (For an 8 pin socket, use pin 4)
  3. Solder a short length of orange wire to pin 8 on the socket. (For an 8 pin socket, use pin 5)
  4. Solder a short length of red wire to pin 14 on the socket. (For an 8 pin socket, use pin 8)
  5. Carefully insulate all 4 pins (including the unconnected pin 1) with heatshrink tubing.
  6. Carefully cut the track leading diagonally from under the 25MHz oscillator to pin 1 of the PLL chip (as shown in pic 2 above - note that on this style chip, pin 1 is in the centre along the top. A dimple moulded in the IC package is next to it)
  7. Solder the black wire to the pint labelled "GND" as shown in pic 2 above. Note that this corresponds in position to that on the new oscillator.
  8. Solder the orange wire to pin 1 of the PLL chip. Refer to step 6 and pic 2 for it's location.
  9. Solder the red wire to the point labelled "+5V" as shown in pic 2 above. This also corresponds in position to that on the new oscillator.
  10. Plug in the appropriate oscillator. Pin 1, as marked by the squared corner and dot goes to the unconnected pin. If you intend testing the Draco at this point, make sure the metal can is not touching anything!
  11. Insulate the oscillator can with tape, & fix it in place with some double side tape.

CPU speed (using Syspeed): 66.48 (50MHz), 76.26 (57MHz)
FPU speed (using Syspeed): 26.58 (50MHz), 30.5 (57MHz)
Render a 1 second fade: 33.17 sec (50MHz), 29.6 sec (57MHz)

First Published: September 21st 2000 - Updated April 1st 2001

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Removing Yellowing From Old Plastic

article from Dave's Amiga Hardware Page

Many people have discovered that the cases of their old computers have become yellowed  after many years. This discolouration cannot be washed off as the plastic itself has been discoloured. It mostly affects ABS plastic, one of the most popular type of plastic used for computer cases, keyboards and other similar items.

Causes of Discolouration
There are a number of possible causes, which, on their own or in combination, which can cause this discolouration. I won't go into the fine details, but a technical explanation can be found here.

  1. The quality of the plastic: ABS is a mixture of several different polymers and stabilising agents. The stabilisers are intended to prevent yellowing, however they can be depleted by the oxidising process. Once depleted, yellowing can occur. It has been noted that individual keys on a keyboard can exhibit different amounts of yellowing, even though they are all exposed to the same environmental conditions. Some keys may have come from different batches with different amounts of stabiliser in them.
  2. Exposure to light: In many cases the discolouration almost seems like sunburn. Discolouration is worst where the item is exposed to light the most. Items that had been placed on top of the plastic, and left there for many years, can leave an imprint with little or no discolouration in the plastic underneath.
  3. Heat: Chemical reactions normally progress faster in the presence of heat. It is logical to assume this is also a factor causing or aggravating discolouration of plastics.
  4. Oxygen: Discolouration is the result of a chemical reaction between certain ingredients used in the plastic and the oxygen in the air.
  5. Surface condition: If the surface of the item is degraded (possibly due to exposure to UV light, harsh chemicals, or the result of certain ingredients gradually evaporating out of the plastic as a result of age), there may be microscopic pits or cracks in this surface. This increases the surface area of the plastic, meaning that more oxygen can get in to cause discolouration.

How To Remove Discolouration
It seems everyone has their own favourite recipe or method to achieve this. Basically we need to reverse the chemical reaction that caused the original discolouration. Usually these recipes involve hydrogen peroxide, a small quantity of laundry "booster" and a wetting or gelling agent which helps the solution stay on the plastic after being painted on. The item is then exposed to sunshine or UV light for several hours. Variations of this are known as 'Retr0brite' and can be found by using Google.

I have never really liked this approach. Having a thin layer of solution painted onto the plastic means that it's prone to drying out, which causes the reaction to stop. The solution then has to be reapplied. With the hot Australian sunshine here, I find I have to constantly apply the solution for several hours. Not ideal at all! Some people paint the solution on and then cover with cling wrap to stop it drying out. While effective, it's hard to 'paint' the solution on evenly and there have been cases of uneven results, with some areas with less discolouration removal than others.

I have found a method of removing discolouration that is simple, cheap, effective, and gives good results. It simply involves purchasing a jar of 'laundry booster' from the supermarket. An example is "Vanish Oxi Action". There are many other brands. Look for sodium percarbonate in the ingredient list. Dissolve it in water in a shallow container, and then fully submerge the item to be whitened in the solution. You may need to attach weights to keep the item submerged. The whole thing is left in the sun for several hours. Stir occasionally. I have found 500g of laundry booster for every 10l of water works well. You can experiment with different quantities of laundry booster, as it does not seem to be critical. I'm lucky in that I live in Australia with very strong sunshine, however I still get good results on cloudy days. The sodium percarbonate, when dissolved in water, creates the hydrogen peroxide that is needed to remove discolouration. It's worth noting that this solution is a milky white. I think this is an advantage as it helps diffuse the UV light, resulting in a much more even effect, without noticeably slowing the process.

At the time I was experimenting with using a UV lamp, however, this was not successful. Using sunlight is the best way to go

An item being retr0brited by this method

What To Expect

A badly yellowed VIC-20 case before treatment. Note variations in discolouration

The same VIC-20 case after treatment

Using this method ensures that that the effect is even over the entire object. Unfortunately results can sometimes still be patchy. Some people have noted some areas can get a patchy, chalky look to them. This is visible in the VIC-20 case shown below. Note the rectangular darker area. A label had previously been there, which I removed before retr0briting. As you would expect there was no yellowing under the label, and as a result, this area exhibited no change after the Retr0brite treatment and was not chalky. Given that the label would have protected the plastic surface underneath, I suspect that the surface not protected was damaged in some way. UV light is well known for damaging plastics, and it is quite likely the surface was degraded, possibly with microscopic holes and fissures invisible to the naked eye. This would increase the surface area, increasing exposure to oxygen in the air. In addition, more volatile components of the plastic could have evaporated over time, causing changes to the chemical balance of the plastic. These changes could make the plastic react differently to the Retr0brite, causing the uneven, chalky result. On the other hand, it's also quite possible the chalkiness is already there and is masked by the yellow discolouration.

Is it a permanent fix for yellowed plastics?
The short answer is no. While Retr0brite reverses the effects of plastic oxidation, it does nothing to prevent it happening again. Below is the same VIC-20 case 4.5 years after the retr0brite treatment. It is clearly becoming yellowed again. Given that heat, light and oxygen are all involved in the yellowing process, some people have tried to prevent this happening again. Methods tried include storage in dark areas and painting the item with lacquer to protect the item from oxygen in the air. So far these have been unsuccessful. Until some more time has passed, and we get more results from further experimentation, I believe the best solution for items becoming yellowed again is to repeat the retr0briting. The plastic will not be weakened or made brittle by retr0brite as it affects only the surface of the item. UV light is more likely to cause this kind of damage.

It's worth noting that the chalky areas don't seem to be yellowing as much again. I suspect the constituent of ABS that yellows is depleted, possibly as a result of the damage caused by the original UV exposure. I have also noticed that areas that were never yellowed in the first place (due to lack of exposure to UV) have now acquired a slight, even yellow tinge. Could it be caused by the stabilisers in the plastic being inactivated by oxidation during the retr0brite process?

As this particular VIC-20 case seems to be very prone to yellowing, I am going to try retr0briting it again, then cover parts of it with different coatings to try and exclude UV light, oxygen, or both in different areas. Once summer returns here in Australia (late 2015), I'll expose the case in the full harsh Australian sunshine for several months and see what happens.

First Published: August 19th 2015

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

2MB Chip RAM for A2000

article from Dave's Amiga Hardware Page

The A2000 was originally designed to provide a maximum of 1MB of Chip RAM. Normally expansion to 2MB requires the addition of some kind of plug in module which is hard to find these days. For those with a Rev 6 motherboard, it is possible to upgrade to 2MB by means of a simple hack as shown below.

How to do it
You will require good soldering skills to perform this modification. You will also require 4 x 44C1000 RAM chips, an 8372B Agnus chip, a 33 ohm resistor and a 470 ohm resistor. Note that I originally performed this modification nearly 20 years ago and never documented it at the time. Hopefully I haven't missed anything when documenting it now.

  1. Remove all 8 existing RAM chips from the motherboard.
  2. Fit sockets to the 4 upper RAM positions only.
  3. Remove both R110 and R212.
  4. Add a wire link from the left terminal of R212 (as viewed from the bottom surface of the motherboard) to pin 36 of the Gary chip. See picture below.
  5. Add a wire link to pin 5 of the four RAM chips in the top row, connecting them together.
  6. Add a 33 ohm resistor from pin 5 of the upper RAM chips to pin 4 of U507 (this is one of the bottom row of RAM chips, now removed)
  7. Add a 470 ohm resistor from pin 5 of the upper RAM chips to +5V. A convenient place for this is pin 1 of RP503.
  8. Install 4 x 44C1000 RAM chips into the top row sockets.
  9. Replace the existing Agnus chip with an 8372B (2MB) Agnus.
  10. Replace the existing Denise chip with a 8373 'Super' Denise, if you wish to upgrade your A2000 to the ECS chipset.

How the A2000 motherboard looks from the bottom with the mods applied

How the A2000 motherboard looks from the top with the mod applied. Hard to tell it's been hacked

First Published: April 29th 2015 - Updated August 2nd 2015

Monday, 17 October 2016

Enhancing & Modernising A4000/040

article from Dave's Amiga Hardware Page

Although the A4000 was the ultimate 'Big Box' Amiga, due to it's age and certain design compromises, there are quite a few performance limitations. These include slow motherboard RAM access (when using the A3640), slow AT-IDE interface and small motherboard RAM capacity. The modifications described here are intended to alleviate these, while also providing a worthwhile performance boost at reasonable cost.

A4000 motherboard and A3640 with all the modifications applied
The Modifications
Below is a list of the modifications. You can do them all together or individually if desired. Most of these link to third party sites or forum discussions.

  1. Remove and replace leaking battery with CR2032 lithium.
  2. Upgrade motherboard RAM to 64MB.
  3. Upgrade Kickstart ROM size to 1MB (machine translated from French).
  4. Upgrade Kickstart to version 3.9, add custom modules.
  5. Upgrade AT-IDE interface from mode 0 to mode 2.
  6. 68030 state machine mod - improve motherboard RAM access speed when using A3640.
  7. Improve ability to overclock the A3640.
  8. Upgrade 68040 to 68060.
  9. Add threaded spacers to support CPU card.Helps ensure the CPU card is firmly attached.
  10. Add headers for cooling fans. A pair of two pin headers can be soldered into existing holes next to power socket, providing 12V.
  11. Add header for reset button. This is soldered to pins 2 & 3 on the battery backed clock chip, and pulls /Fail to ground, resetting the Amiga.
  12. Replace capacitors on A3640. Note I used low profile 'chip' capacitors to allow clearance for 040/060 adaptor. Capacitors on the A4000 motherboard should be checked too.

First Published: April 25th 2015

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Leaky Clock Batteries

article from Dave's Amiga Hardware Page

Most Amigas use a rechargeable 3.6 volt NiCd battery to keep the clock operating when the Amiga is switched off. These batteries deteriorate with age and start to leak corrosive fluids after several years. These fluids will eat away the copper tracks of circuit boards and destroy ICs and other components, ruining your Amiga. PCs don't have that problem as they only last at most a couple of years before they are thrown out and upgraded, long before their batteries have a chance to leak.

As even the newest Commodore-made Amigas are now over 20 years old, it is vital that the batteries are checked, and if necessary replaced. From my experiences, over 90% of all Amigas now have leaking batteries, so log out IMMEDIATELY and check your battery! If you don't, your Amiga will stop working one day and it may not be possible to repair it as part of the PCB may be dissolved away! . You have been warned!

One of the best ways to make your battery leak is to leave the Amiga unpowered for a long time. On one occasion I had an A4000 that had been used daily for 10 years. The battery never gave the slightest hint of leaking. It was then stored for two months, and when I checked the battery afterwards, I found it leaking badly. So, if you intend to store your Amiga for any period of time, you MUST remove the battery (unless it has already been replaced by a new NiMH type). Don't do what one person did - he stored two A3000s on their sides for 5 years. The batteries leaked and dribbled across the motherboard, leaving a frightful mess.

Note that these batteries contain cadmium, which is toxic. It is strongly advised to thoroughly wash your hands if you come in contact with any leaking matter from these batteries. For this reason it is also advised to not simply throw it out in the garbage but to dispose of it in a recycling facility that can handle old batteries and other similar materials.

How to spot a leaking battery.

The picture on the left above shows a typical leaking battery on an A4000D motherboard. You can see the white crud leaking out of the end. This is by no means the worst one I have seen (the owner wiped most of it off before I had a chance to take a picture of it). On the right is a typical battery in an A2000. As you can see the leakage is very extensive. It even penetrated into the CPU socket and was starting to corrode the CPU pins. As you can imagine, it is very difficult to clean it out properly from under all those parts. All Amiga models use similar batteries. They are all the same size and shape. They all leak eventually, especially if the Amiga is not used regularly. So, if you intend to store your Amiga for a long time (more than a few months), I strongly advise you to either replace or remove the battery first. Some 3rd party devices may have a "coin" type battery. These are lithium and are unlikely to leak.

Some of the most common faults in the A4000, where only 4MB of fast ram is available, or when the A4000 thinks it has ECS chips, are caused by damage from leaking batteries. Check the ICs closest to the battery, U176 & U177.

How to remove a leaking battery.

The battery can be removed in the usual way with a soldering iron. However, in an emergency, or for those without soldering facilities, removal may also be achieved by snapping if off the motherboard. Hold the battery and push it back and forth longitudinally until it breaks free. Once removed, it is strongly advised that the motherboard be cleaned as the alkaline residue from the leaked battery can continue to cause further damage.

After removing the motherboard from the Amiga, start by cleaning the affected area with a small brush and methylated spirits. This removes any grease and helps make the next step more effective. Next, get some weak acid such as vinegar or lemon juice and use the brush to clean the affected area thoroughly. For stubborn areas an old toothbrush is ideal. In cases where there is a large amount of battery leakage, fizzing may occur. Make sure the acid penetrates into all areas affected by battery leakage. Let the acid continue to soak for about 15 minutes, longer for badly affected areas. When you are satisfied the spillage has been neutralised, rinse with warm water. Next clean the entire board with brush and methylated spirits, and then rinse well in hot, clean water, using a brush to make sure all areas are rinsed thoroughly. Shake off excess, then put the board in a warm dry place for several hours to dry. Warm sunshine works well, otherwise in front of a heater so that the board is heated to about 30 to 40 deg C.

Fitting a new battery.

This step can be omitted if you are not concerned about having correct time and date on your Amiga. Note that the A3000 has certain system settings that are lost if there is no battery.

A new NiCd battery may be soldered in place of the old one, however, I do not recommend this as the new battery will also be prone to leakage after a few years. A better alternative is a NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) battery. This looks and works exactly like a NiCd battery but it is much more durable and less likely to leak.

The newest and best alternative is to use a 2032 type lithium coin battery as is commonly used in PCs these days. The battery holder can be removed from an old PC and soldered in to the space formerly occupied by the NiCd battery. Due to the configuration of the holes on the motherboard, the holder will need to be angled. Sometimes a small portion of the plastic body may need to be shaved or cut away to make it fit. Because these lithium batteries are non rechargeable, the charging circuit in the Amiga must be disabled by inserting a diode in series with the new battery. Anode is connected to the + terminal of the battery, and the cathode of the diode then becomes the + terminal of the diode and battery assembly. There is also a document on Aminet explaining how to use a lithium battery in an Amiga in hard/hack/lithbatt.lha

Using the correct type of diode.

To get the most life out of the battery, the correct type of diode needs to be used. Most people just use an ordinary silicon diode such as a 1N914. Unfortunately, silicon diodes have a forward voltage drop of about 0.65 volts. This means that the clock chip is only getting 2.35 volts out of the 3 volt battery. Obviously, as the battery runs down it's voltage will drop further, and as the clock chip is designed for 3.6V, it won't take long before the voltage is too low to maintain the clock.

The best type of diode to use is a Schottky diode (sometimes called a 'Hot carrier Diode'). These can have a forward voltage drop as little as 0.15 volts, which means that 2.85 volts is available to the clock chip. Examples of Schottky diodes are the 1N581 or the 1N5711.

If a Schottky diode is not available, the next best alternative is a germanium diode. These have a forward voltage drop of about 0.3 volts, leaving 2.7 volts available. Examples of germanium diodes are OA90, or 1N34...yes, an ancient 1N34 from WWII works well!

it can be a little difficult to find a neat and effective place to install this diode, but I have found it can be installed in place of the 470 ohm resistor that is in series with the battery. This resistor was designed to limit charging current, and is now redundant with a non chargeable battery. Simply remove this resistor and replace it with the diode. Nice and neat and no wonky hacks! See the pic below.

In the example above, from an A2000 with a rev 6.2 motherboard, you can see a 1N34 germanium diode installed where R803 was at the bottom left. Cathode is to the left. You can also see how the battery holder is angled, the + terminal on the battery is soldered to the left + terminal on the motherboard, leaving the right terminal vacant as shown.

First Published: July 9th 2000 - Updated Agust 26th 2014